Food-related companies are very interesting. It seems like today there are constantly new food and beverage startups popping up around the world. Recently, I came across TRU, Inc. – a beverage company that is giving athletes and many others a healthier energy shot option. The company has had a successful Kickstarter campaign and has graduated from two successful, global food-based accelerators (Startup52 and Food-X) backed by SOSV (VC firm). The company is currently located in Boston and was co-founded in 2015 by Jack McNamara and Robert Avakian.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to discuss TRU, Inc. with one of its co-founders, Jack McNamara. When StartupConvos was originally started, the plan was for it to be an early-stage startup blog that dealt with technology-related companies (since many startups are technology-based). However, recently the blog has covered numerous food-related companies that are very interesting. TRU, Inc. is included in that group of interesting food startups.
According to Jack, TRU, Inc. is a company that athletes can trust. The company’s main product is TRUenergy, which is “an energy shot infused with vitamins, electrolytes, and antioxidants, to help athletes perform better.” This beverage is caffeinated with green tea and sweetened with honey. The product plans to launch in October 2016 (so get ready everyone!). Jack mentioned that when creating the product, they made sure to have vitamins around the 100% daily value mark, unlike many energy beverages that go way over that 100% daily value recommendation.
Jack is a former pro hockey player. After conversing and playing with many players, he noticed how many athletes were taking energy shots before games. He found it crazy that some athletes who took so much pride in what they put in their bodies, were taking these energy beverages that weren’t the best for them. Around this same time, Jack came across a teammate that would actually drink tea before games (at this time Jack was playing hockey around Denmark). After seeing his teammate do this, Jack decided to create a product that people wanted and needed.
There are many competitors in the energy drink market. According to Jack, TRUenergy differentiates itself from the competition. Many competitors are similar to one another, but TRUenergy made it a priority to really differentiate itself from the pack. This beverage separates itself by being a much healthier energy option for athletes and many others. As mentioned, the beverage is for anyone, but Jack and company really place an emphasis on addressing a target market that consisted of people who care about what they are putting into their bodies. The health and food industry is huge and TRU, Inc. believes that they can take a bite out of it!
Jack grew up as an athlete, which means he has always had a drive and strong desire to compete. Growing up his love was sports, but he always had thoughts of starting his own business one day. He grew up in a very competitive and athletic family. Jack’s parents were both DI athletes and his three brothers all played DI hockey. He also mentioned that he is grateful how supportive his parents have been during his entrepreneurial journey. It is clear that Jack is one of those individuals out there that has always had an entrepreneurial mindset.
The name of the company was originally called Kickstick, according to Jack. However, there was a trademark issue and changing the name of the company made sense. The team took about a week trying to create a new name. The company surveyed many people and thought having the word energy within the name made sense since they wanted people to know that it was an energy drink. The company still wasn’t sold on the idea though and entered a meeting with a designer with a few possible choices. The designer noticed one design with “TRUenergy” in it and the designer suggested that the company should stick with that name. Thus, Jack and his team decided to call the company TRU, Inc. (but TRUenergy was essentially its brand name).
There were several problems that TRU, Inc. faced. Jack mentioned that some of the challenges consisted of:
- Dealing with frustration – “Nothing is ever perfect”
- Never really being done with anything – Entrepreneurship is a grind
- Trying for perfection when nothing can be perfect
- Knowing when to pivot
- Lack of funds
- Trying to compete with larger companies
Jack mentioned that many of the bad things about entrepreneurship are also the best things about being an entrepreneur. TRU, Inc. faced many of the challenges that startups face when they are just getting started, but it sounds as though Jack and his team have dealt with these hurdles quite well thus far.
It is always interesting discussing startups and entrepreneurship with former athletes. Not to take anything away from non-athletes, but with athletes passion can truly be felt miles away. The minute Jack and I began talking I could tell how much he wants TRU, Inc. to succeed and in doing so he will be able to have a successful brand and be able to provide athletes and many others with a healthier energy shot option. Be on the lookout for this product when it launches around June of this year. Please be sure to check out TRU, Inc.’s site at http://drinktru.com/ and follow them on Twitter @drinktru
*StartupConvos has no investment in this company